Viewing street harassment, seeing women talk about its impact on their lives, watching men who harass explain why, and hearing men who do not harass speak out against the behavior, can drastically raise awareness about this problem. Of note, 51 percent of eighty-five male allies Stop Street Harassment surveyed felt that viewing a documentary was the best way to raise awareness among men that this is a problem. Also, media outlets love having video clips with their stories, so having some available can make street harassment a more marketable story, and of course, being covered in the news helps raise awareness.
Here are five examples of documentaries, followed by tips for creating your own.
1. War Zone
For her 1998 documentary War Zone, filmmaker, producer, and social justice activist Maggie Hadleigh-West walked the streets of New York City, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Chicago, with a video camera. Across five weeks she and another woman filmed more than 1,000 men who harassed women, usually Hadleigh-West. They filmed Hadleigh-West talking to the men about why they harass women. The film includes interviews with five women of color about their street harassment experiences, and Hadleigh-West, who is white, also talks about her lifelong experiences with harassment. Her film is available for purchase on her website in lengths of 76 or 30 minutes.
Inspired by War Zone and their daily experiences with street harassment, five interns at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) in Brooklyn, New York, created this well-produced, interesting 20-minute street harassment documentary Hey…Shorty in 2007. The GGE interns, ranging in age from 15 to 18, worked with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement to film and produce it . They spent eight months interviewing young women of color in their neighborhood about the impact of street harassment on their life, as well as interviewing several men of color, both young and old, about why they harass women. The film is available for purchase from the GGE website.
3. Black Woman Walking
While attending graduate school at New York University, writer and media-maker Tracey Rose thought a lot about black women’s bodies, respectability, and the politics of public space because of her classes. Combined with the street harassment she experienced, she questioned what her body signified, what does a female body of color mean in a public space? To answer these questions, she created an 8-minute documentary, Black Woman Walking, comprised of interviews with women of color. The film tries to examine whether women of color experience a particular type of street harassment. While Rose never intended for the film to be about same race harassment, those were the stories most women told. She said, “When I began interviewing, it became clear that the majority of times, women experience harassment from men within their own communities and that’s one of the reasons the experience is so fraught and painful.” Her documentary is available in its entirety for free online.
In 2010, filmmaker and San Francisco State University student Tiye Rose Hood created a five minute documentary about street harassment and the objectification of women. It’s available in its entirety for free online.
5. Sexual Harassment at Penn State
Meredith, a film major at Pennsylvania State University created a seven minute documentary for a Women Studies Class. She and her project partners took a camera downtown at night and asked people about sexual harassment on campus, many of the responses related to street harassment. One reason why they made the video was because they wanted to demonstrate that a lot of people, including women, don’t even know the definition of sexual harassment.
A Few Tips for Creating a Documentary:
If you have access to a video recording device (including on a cell phone), you can create an informal or formal clip and add your voice to the growing online collection of videos.
1. Interview people you know about their perceptions of, experiences, with, and suggestions for ending street harassment.
2. Conduct “person on the street” interviews.
3. Try to capture street harassment occurring.
4. Video tape someone confronting a harasser
5. Post your video online or screen it at a street harassment event or community film festival.
6. If someone you know is making a documentary on street harassment, volunteer to participate! The more voices—women’s and men’s—captured on film speaking out against this issue, the more powerful the movement can become.